August sees the final month of the New York's rooftop film festival. No, it's not that we are late in talking about it, it is that August sees some of the best films being screened in some of the most intriguing places. To those who'll be in the Big Apple during August, here's a run down of what to expect.
Starting back in 1997, when film-maker Mark Elijah Rosenberg was searching for an innovative way to get people together to watch his short films, a few hundred people got together on the roof of an apartment block and shared an evening of film. This was the first year of, what is now known as, Rooftop Films – Underground Movies Outdoors. Since then, the event has gone on to pull crowds of thousands, with 2011 featuring 200 films that were screened during 47 events to an audience, which amounted to more than 30,000. See, people do cotton on to the good things fast. 2012's edition has actually been active since January but it has been during July that things really got going, letting August take centre stage as the must-see month.
What's more is that this is a non-profit organisation that aims to, 'to engage and inspire diverse communities by showing movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, teaching filmmaking to young people, and renting low-cost equipment to artists and non-profits.'
A lot of the locations are not necessarily on rooftops and have expanded to take place in parks, old factories, art galleries and sculpture parks. But, don't be thinking that this festival is location over matter, no, the films are just as inviting, curious and inventive as the places that they are screened and most are free to attend.
August has a lot of talent to choose from; the Queens Museum of Art New York City Building Flushing Meadows Corona Park is hosting Fire In Babylon by Stevan Riley, inviting you to bring your picnic blanket along to watch a real life account of what happened in during the race row which took place in the West Indies. Not only will the evening feature this screening, but also other arts will take place; dance, etc.
Friday 10 sees Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mim's 'Only the Young', which is a look at Christian skateboarders and those coming of age, being screened on one of New York's 'great undiscovered' rooftop spaces, the Open Road Rooftop. This space is special as it is a functioning school and the staff and students teamed up with street artist legends to create a handful of murals, decorating the space and giving those that go there an unforgettable experience. This screening is also followed by a Q and A with the directors. This film is an absolute must-see and has already got the critics excited, calling it one of the most exciting debuts that they've seen in ages.
One thing that ties a lot of the films together is the subtle yet bold way that issues are highlighted, casting light on those who are also behind the camera and the communities that were worked with during the filming. As it is a non-profit organisation, the team behind the project offer services to the community and those that let Rooftop Films use their space as a screening space. For example, the Automotive High School, in Brooklyn, have in-school film assemblies and production classes for the students. Not bad, eh? What the staff of this organisation stress, is that the film festival is much more than just that, saying that they are building a community of film lovers, artists, neighbourhoods and venues. It's a reciprocal relationship and one that is becoming stronger year on year.
It isn't always about looking forward. One screening this year teams theme and venue together perfectly, placing 'Field of Dreams' on a screen at Richmond County Bank Ballpark; an experience that can not be ignored.
So, if you find yourself with some free time on your hands and want to try something different, I say that Rooftop Film Festival is the best way to entertain yourself. I'll certainly be there.
For more information on this wonderful event: Rooftopfilms
Written by Ben Taylor